My Nan’s Old Desk.

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For as far back as I can remember this was my nan’s beautiful desk.

 

When I was a child we lived next door to each other in a house handed down through generations.

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In this photo of that house in Kent, the child is my nan, Marjorie, (born 1922) and the lady behind her is her mother, my great-grandmother, Grace.

 

 

 

 

Nan – early 1940’s.

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Years later when my brother and I came along, my nan and granddad moved in to the semi-detached house next door and our new little family moved in with Grace. Something you don’t hear of much nowadays.

A hobbit sized door was knocked through in the back-to-back cupboards under the stairs, allowing us the freedom to go between the two houses whenever we liked.

Sadly this idyllic childhood came to end a decade later when my parents divorced and we moved away.

More years flew by and we all changed homes but still saw each other often. In 2003 my own daughter was born.

When my nan died in 2011 I was devastated. She’d always been such a huge part of my life and suddenly she was gone. Heart broken didn’t cover it.

We then had the soul destroying task of selling her bungalow and all its furnishings as Granddad had already left us years earlier. We sold many things but I simply couldn’t imagine parting with her beloved desk so I brought it back, contents and all, to my own house and tucked it away in the garage.

Recent  changes made me suggest we change our now hardly used third bedroom into an office. My husband loved the idea. We just needed a desk to go in it. But hey, we had one just waiting outside, right?

So, we brought Nan’s lovely old desk into the house. Unfortunately all the drawers had swollen with damp and were stuck shut.  It took a week of drying out but eventually one budged and then all the rest came free, too.

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Amongst the usual desk paraphernalia we also found some other, very interesting things.12721695_1317375918279999_1661180503_n Unfortunately now, though, we have no-one to ask about their history.

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It’s nice to know there were some good times through the bad ones.

This week we cleaned and polished and moved Nan’s old desk into its new home, in ours. 12659771_1315791505105107_554736758_nI think it looks right at home and I’m sure my lovely nan would agree.

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Faber Academy Course – Week 3

 

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Third week in of the online Faber Academy writing course and I’m really getting stuck in. 

This week it was all about character. The task I chose to post to the forum was a character sketch of someone I knew. I struggled with this at first because the picture that jumped instantly into my head was of someone I didn’t know, and she just wouldn’t go away. So I wrote about her. Mary. She must be real somewhere in the world, though, right?

Feedback started to arrive. Always the scary part. Thankfully my piece was liked, but as per previous week’s posts opinions on certain words were divided. One person’s favourite line was another’s suggestion to drop! Proving again that writing is such a subjective business and we simply cannot possibly please everyone.

It’s so encouraging to read people’s comments about your work and it’s thrilling to be able to tell others the same about theirs. Week four starts tomorrow and I’m itching to get my hands on it already.

In the meantime, here’s Mary.

 

                                                                     Mary

Black roots seeping down the centre of her dyed blonde hair is always the first thing that lurches to mind when I think of Mary. Next comes the swirl of the foul smelling cigarette smoke as it curls its way up her face and into her ever squinting eyes. I don’t remember the exact colour of them. Her eyes, I mean.  Maybe that’s because they were never open for long. When they were closed you could see just how much baby blue eyeshadow she’d smeared on that morning without using a mirror. And gaze in disbelief at the great smear of blood red lipstick she’d plastered on at the same time. Thick, sticky lipstick that always pooled into a gloopy mess at the corners of her mouth by the end of the day. Not a pretty sight, I’m sure you’d agree. But she didn’t seem to care.

“If no-one don’t bleeding well like me then that’s their problem, it aint mine. I don’t give a flying fox crap what anyone else thinks of me, they can all go to hell for all I care.” She didn’t have many friends. Not a surprise really.

Her body was thin and wiry, not one you’d want to cuddle up to.  Years of existing on caffeine and alcohol did that to a person, I guess. If she did ever attempt physical contact it was probably because she was drunk. Although saying that she did have an affectionate side to her because she loved the next door neighbour’s dog; often squeezing cocktail sausages through the broken section of fence for it when the owners were out. If the other side’s neighbour’s cat dared to stray into the garden, however, she’d send it on its way with a well landed boot to its ginger backside.

Mary’s favourite time of day was the evening when all the terrible soaps were on the tele. One after the other she’d watch them, through a haze of cigarette smoke and gin fumes. When the last one finished she’d slump back in her chair and fall asleep. Sometimes I threw a blanket over her; depending on whether she’d been nice to me or not really.

Sometimes she offered me food, other times she didn’t even speak to me. Sometimes she’d pat me on the back and say “You ain’t that bad really, I suppose.” This was a compliment, you understand. Other times she’d kick me swiftly in the shin when I wasn’t looking and say “Get out of the way you useless sod.”

I don’t know if she regretted some of the ways she’d lived her life, I never got to ask her, because one chilly February morning I found her dead in her chair; TV still blaring out and next doors cat asleep on her lap, purring. Even though I was only ten at the time I knew instantly that she’d died because her face had turned grey under all her hideous make up.  All that said I did still love her, though. She was my mother after all.

Faber Academy Course – Week 2

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Second week in of the online course and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

This week it was all about POV – writing in first person, second person, third person. Personally I tend to write in my preferred first person so this exercise really helped pushed me that bit further than I’d push myself.

All of the virtual classmates were asked to chose from a selection of ideas to work with. I chose The Surprise in the Kitchen. We were asked to write 300 words in one person and then change it to another. Once happy with our work we post it to the forum where other classmates can read and comment on it. The swapping of feedback is fantastic for seeing the good and bad in your own work that you just can’t see yourself.

Here are my 300 words. I wrote it in my usual, comfortable, first person and then changed it to third. Personally I much preferred the first. Some agreed with me, saying the emotion for the reader is much closer in first. Others, however, disagreed. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself.

 

First person – The Surprise in the Kitchen

When I opened my eyes on that chilly Tuesday morning I didn’t realise there was a surprise waiting for me downstairs in the kitchen. I’d thought it was going to be a Tuesday morning like any other. But I was wrong.

Wrapping my pink fluffy dressing gown around me like a warm hug I padded softly to the bathroom with a yawn and a stretch; my usual routine. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom step of the stairs and smelled something peculiar I realised that Tuesday morning was going to be very different from any other indeed.

For a brief moment I stopped and closed my eyes. Was I still asleep? Still dreaming? “No,” my toes told me, as they squirmed in the thick carpet.

I tiptoed through the dining room before reaching the bright yellow room that was my kitchen. Sunshine beamed in at me through the small square window like the Cheshire cat, blinding me at first.

As I turned to follow my nose – to the smell – I saw him. Curled up on the door mat, like a hibernating hedgehog was Dinky; my little sausage dog. I loved that funny shaped animal so much. Just seeing him there made my heart rise and fall. He can’t have heard me creep in. Snuffly snores escaped him as his soft brown body rose and fell like my heart had. I stood and stared at him.

Not daring to move any closer (just in case), I shut my eyes once more and breathed in his musty scent. He must’ve been in the duck pond again, I thought.  An image of me dragging him out with a net, covered in soggy green weed sprang into my head. The memory of it pushed tears out of my tightly closed eyes. I knew when I opened them again he’d be gone, so I stayed very still until the smell disappeared completely. As I knew it would, because Dinky had died many years ago.

 

Third person – The Surprise in the Kitchen

When she opened her eyes on that chilly Tuesday morning she didn’t realise there was a surprise waiting for her downstairs in the kitchen. She’d thought it was going to be a Tuesday morning like any other. But she was wrong.

Wrapping her pink fluffy dressing gown around her like a warm hug she padded softly to the bathroom with a yawn and a stretch; her usual routine. It wasn’t until she reached the bottom step of the stairs and smelled something peculiar she realised that Tuesday morning was going to be very different from any other indeed.

For a brief moment she stopped and closed her eyes. Was she still asleep? Still dreaming? “No,” her toes told her, as they squirmed in the thick carpet.

She tiptoed through the dining room before reaching the bright yellow room that was her kitchen. Sunshine beamed in at her through the small square window like the Cheshire cat, blinding her at first.

As she turned to follow her nose – to the smell – she saw him. Curled up on the door mat, like a hibernating hedgehog was Dinky; her little sausage dog. She loved that funny shaped animal so much. Just seeing him there made her heart rise and fall. He can’t have heard her creep in. Snuffly snores escaped him as his soft brown body rose and fell like her heart had. She stood and stared at him.

Not daring to move any closer (just in case), she shut her eyes once more and breathed in his musty scent. He must’ve been in the duck pond again, she thought.  An image of her dragging him out with a net, covered in soggy green weed sprang into her head. The memory of it pushed tears out of her tightly closed eyes. She knew when she opened them again he’d be gone, so she stayed very still until the smell disappeared completely. As she knew it would, because Dinky had died many years ago.

Faber Academy Course – First week.

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One week down of eight and the Faber Academy online writing course I’ve started has my brain buzzing. 

The first week’s exercise was to write 500 words based on a selection of given ideas and for others in the virtual classroom to critique it. I have to say I’ve learned a lot already. Probably the main thing being – you’ll never please everyone.

I chose the title The Doorway. An image appeared in my head, instantly. All who read my words and left feedback said they really enjoyed it. However, opinions on the piece were divided. Some said they liked the mystery of not knowing exactly what it was about to begin with, while others said they wanted, needed, to know more detail much earlier on. One wondered if it was a memoir (it’s not), and two really didn’t like the last line. One thought it broke the barrier with the reader, the other that it broke the spell. Personally I like it.

Here follows those 500 words for you to decide.

                                The Doorway.

As I stood in the doorway, images of our life together tore through my mind. Our first date. Our wedding day. The birth of our daughter. The death of our son. A lifetime of memories; some treasured, others best buried. Literally.

If I crossed the threshold my life would change again, forever. And yet there was no other option. The urge to turn and run pulled at my insides like a dog on a bone. But run to where? There was nowhere to hide. Nowhere left for me to go, but through that doorway. And yet my feet were stuck fast to the cold white floor beneath them.

“There’s no turning back,” the voice in my head whispered. “But you know that, right?” Yes I knew that, I’d just said that, hadn’t I? Sorry, thought that. “Okay, so go on then, go through the doorway.”

My heart did a swift backflip before crash landing against the inside of my chest. I squeezed my teeth tight shut. Worried that if I opened my mouth even an inch my heart would seize the opportunity to leave, and gallop off down the never ending corridor of lights behind me.

“You can do this,” the voice continued. I shook my head. “Yes you can. You’ve done worse before.” A picture of our child’s tiny blue coffin flashed in to my head.

Raising myself to full height I sucked in a long deep breath, drawing it all the way up from the pit of my stomach, and slowly let it out again. My right foot moved first, just a little. But it was enough to make a start. Enough to begin the journey though the doorway and in to the stark white room beyond.

The nurse realised I was there at that point and stopped fiddling with the machine. No words were spoken. None were needed. She nodded at me whilst clasping her hands together in front of her. I nodded back, and for some bizarre, unknown reason, smiled.

My heart performed a double somersault and made a last attempt at escape. I clamped my teeth together even harder, just in case.

“Look at him, you must look at him,” the voice said. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to continue staring at the kind nurse stood in front of me, instead. “It’s time now. You have to look.”

Like my feet had started to move on their own, my eyes now began to do the same. Slowly downwards and sideways they shifted before coming to rest on the face of my husband lying motionless in the hospital bed.

The machine was keeping him alive. He wasn’t him anymore. He was gone and yet he was still here. That was until I pressed the button.

Which finger would I use to end my husband’s life, I wondered, as I looked down at my hands. 

Which finger would you chose?